How the Golden Lions started against the first-place men's basketball team in the Southwestern Athletic Conference mattered as much as how they finished.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff held Southern University to 6 points in nearly the first 15 minutes of the game and relied on another big run to expand a 1-point lead in the second half and race to a 62-55 win before 1,351 at H.O. Clemmons Arena on Saturday.
UAPB (9-11, 5-2 SWAC) won its fifth in a row, its longest winning string since 7 in a row in January 2018, and ended Southern's 5-0 start in conference play, thanks in large part to Shaun Doss Jr.'s 23 points and 6 rebounds.
"They beat us pretty bad last year," Doss said, referring to Southern's 99-51 win in Baton Rouge last year while he played at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. "I wasn't here and I still felt pretty bad. I just had that taste in my mouth, and I wanted this game."
A.C. Curry yanked 11 rebounds to go with 7 points. It was the junior transfer's second 10-plus-rebound game of the season.
"A.C. Curry, what he does for our team, he doesn't get enough credit," Lions Coach Solomon Bozeman said. "He made championship play after championship play, whether that's diving on the floor, whether that's getting loose balls, whether that's rebounding. Shout out to A.C. Curry tonight."
The Lions never trailed and built their largest lead at 19 points (33-14 with 1:59 left), taking a 36-24 lead into halftime. The Jaguars (9-10, 5-1), not going away quietly, pulled within 45-44 with 13 minutes left, recovering from a 7-for-24 shooting clip from the field in the first 20 minutes.
"They're averaging 75 or 76 points a game, so they're capable of getting hot," Bozeman said.
Southern was held to 17-of-50 shooting (34%) from the floor and made 7 of 24 3-pointers.
"That's who we are; we're a defensive-minded group," Bozeman said. "This program, this team is built on toughness and being a gritty basketball team. We wanted to come out and set the tone on the defensive end, but in the end we talk about focusing on ourselves and getting better at what we do. Tonight, I thought we came out, we defended, we rebounded, and it ultimately got us the victory."
Kylen Milton drove from the right wing for a 2-hand dunk and Brahm Harris fired in a 3-point shot to key a 13-2 UAPB run that was all but the knockout punch. Southern made 4 of 4 free throws to pull within 60-55, but Doss tipped in a third-chance shot with 21 seconds left to fashion the final score.
"The last 8 or 9 minutes, I thought we went on a defensive clinic," Bozeman said.
UAPB made 22 of 52 (42.3%) from the field, including 10 of 27 from the arc. Doss' 9-of-10 free-throw effort led a 12-of-14 game at the foul line for the Lions.
The Jaguars went 14 of 17 (82.4%) from the free-throw line.
Trejon Ware scored 9 points, and Kylen Milton and Ismael Plet each had 8 for the Lions. DeSean Woods led Southern with 12 off the bench, as reigning SWAC Player of the Week Brion Whitley scored 11 points despite going 4 for 16 from the floor.
UAPB will host Grambling State at 7:30 p.m. Monday.